ENTERPRISE, Ala. (AP) - A violent storm system ripped apart an Alabama high school as students hunkered inside and later tore through Georgia, hitting a hospital and raising the death toll to at least 20 across the Midwest and Southeast.
Eight students died yesterday when a tornado struck Enterprise High School, says Mayor Kenneth Boswell.
Boswell says the teenage victims were all in one wing of the school that took a direct hit, with the tornado blowing out the walls and roof.
The students were preparing to leave for the day when the sirens started up and the lights went out.
A student, 17-year-old Kira Simpson, who lost four friends to the storm, says it was in a split second that we sat down and started to cover ourselves before the storm hit. She says glass was breaking. It was loud.
"It's like a bad dream," says Kira. "I have to keep reminding myself that it actually happened."
As the students scrambled for shelter, a section of roof and a wall near 17-year-old senior Erin Garcia collapsed on her classmates.
"I was just sitting there praying the whole time," says Erin. "It sounded like a bunch of people trying to beat the wall down. People didn't know where to go. They were trying to lead us out of the building.
"I kept seeing people with blood on their faces."
As the massive storm system swept into Georgia, another tornado apparently touched down near the Sumter Regional Hospital in Americus, 117 miles south of Atlanta, blowing out the windows, tossing cars into trees and killing at least two people, says Buzz Weiss of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.
Doctors, nurses and volunteers had worked into the night to evacuate dozens of patients.
Six more people were killed in the town of Newton, Georgia and several homes were destroyed, Fire Chief Andy Belinc says.
The burst of tornadoes was part of a larger line of thunderstorms and snowstorms that stretched from Minnesota to the Gulf Coast.
Authorities blamed tornadoes for the deaths of a 7-year-old girl in Missouri, 10 people in Alabama and nine in Georgia, and twisters also damaged homes in Kansas.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)